There are over 200 wineries in six, main Israel wine regions.
So how did it all begin?
People have been making wine in Israel for at least five thousand years. Grapes are one of the seven blessed species mentioned in the Bible.
You can find ancient wine presses all over the country. Canaanite wine was exported to the Pharoahs and the Romans loved wine from Judea. There is even the Biblical tale of Noah who cultivated a vineyard and got drunk after the flood!
But with the Arab Islamic invasion in the 7th century, the wine industry was closed down and indigenous grape varieties were lost.
Winemaking was re-established after more than a thousand years with the return of Jewish settlements in the early 1800's. The past thirty years has seen a winemaking boom in Israel with boutique wineries cropping up like mushrooms.
Tiny Israel has six main regions cultivating wine grapes.
Each region grows wine grapes with its own 'terroir', its own unique character and aroma, resulting from differences in the soil, water, wind, altitude, climate and even the natural plants and animals of the region. Some of the wineries have their own vineyards, while others mix grapes brought from different regions.
Here are the wine regions from south to north, color coded on the map:
The heat, salinity and sandy soil of the Negev make it a difficult place to grow wine.
Drip irrigation has made grape growing possible. The successful Negev vineyards produce wine with distinctive aromas. In the desert there is intense radiation, and extreme differences in temperature between day and night. This often cause the grapes to ripen prematurely.
Some of the quality wineries in the Negev include:
The hills of Judea near Jerusalem were covered with grape vines at least since the days of King David and Solomon thousands of years ago. The cool summer nights and the limestone rich soil produce really fine wine grapes.
Travelling in the steep slopes and narrow valleys is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds, especially in HaElla Valley, also known as 'Little Tuscany'.
Some of the quality wineries in the Shimshon area include:
Karmei Yosef Winery (Bravdo) Winery is one of the most interesting wineries in the area. Built by two university professors in 1999, its all about wine-making science. The atmosphere is hi-tech.
But they have managed to successfully translate their wealth of knowledge into creating amazing wine.
The winery itself is located in the heart of the vineyard at the foot-hills of the majestic village of Karmei Yosef on the way to Jerusalem.
Kadma Winery, located deep in the Judean foothills takes a completely different approach to the hi-tech winemaking at Karmei Yosef.
Its owners have recreated the ancient techniques of wine aging in clay casks instead of barrels.
The large clay casks are brought from Georgia in Asia where the tradition of caskmaking has been preserved for thousands of years by local craftsmen.
Fermentation in clay casks grants the wine its unique aromas and flavors.
There are some several wineries within 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv in the Sharon plain.
Some of the quality wineries in the Sharon include:
'Carmel' means 'vineyard of the Lord.' and the Carmel mountain range was historically rich with vineyards.
The region enjoys a temperate client, sea breezes, several deep streams and sediment-rich soil rich from the clifs and slopes facing the Mediterranean Sea.
In fact, Carmel Winery is the first modern winery founded in 1882 in Zichron Yaacov with the support of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Carmel produces 15 million bottles a year.
Some of the quality wineries in the Carmel regions include:
Amphorae Winery in particular is one of our favorites wineries in Israel.
The winery is located at Makura farm in a magical valley hidden at the midst of an ancient volcano on the Western Carmel Mountains.
Besides its beauty, this area is considered to be one of the most ancient wine producing areas on Earth.
The green, lofty mountains of the Galilee, dotted with picturesque villages provide spectacular views, as well as the finest wines in Israel.
Most of the largest wineries have vineyards in the Galilee, as well as many boutique wineries.
Some of the quality wineries in the Galilee include:
The cool winters of the Golan Heights and the distinctive basaltic soil are excellent for growing grapes and have a good influence on the quality and aroma of the wines grown there.
There is one large winery, the Ramat Hagolan Winery and many family boutique vineyards.
So Cheers or as we say in Israel along with Jews worldwide ‘LeHayim’ - to Life!
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